Young learners vs adult learners-general peculiarities.

Acquiring English as a foreign language is a complex learning process, comprising various and numerous mental processes and activities, such as : learning new information itself, memorization, recognition (identifying) the learnt material, its application , etc. Each of these in their turn, represents the combination of both physical and mental skills and actions, dependant on such characteristics as age, intellectual potential and general knowledge. In the framework of learning English as a foreign language it is highly important that the assimilation of a new material is being based on the linguistic knowledge of the mother tongue itself. Thus, an efficient learning process is a conscious and comprehensible assimilation of a new material (and not just a mere mechanical learning), that is being “stocked “ in the memory; as this assimilating and memorizing process is being based on associating and comparing the language units and phenomena being learned with the similar ones of the mother tongue. In case of a young learner, such associations are more “vivid and expressive” and his mind is “much catchier” both to the general and peculiar language units of the target language. By the expression associations are more “vivid and expressive” and his mind is “much catchier” it is meant the following perception model: “I hear/see/smell/touch/feel → I draw clear and vivid pictures representing it in my mind → I compare them to my mother tongue → I put them in my memory → I use them to talk about something/somebody. For example, a young learner is prone to better assimilate such synonymous adjectives as fat/plump/stout etc.; as while memorizing each of them he will stick to his “expressive” pictures, drawn in his mind and representing clearly each of the above mentioned adjectives. While an adult learner will refer all these adjectives to one general meaningful notion-“fat”, without paying too much attention to the subtle connotation differences, underlying them; which for a young learner will be quite distinctive and “colourful”.An adult learner will tend to concentrate more on the grammatical structure of the sentence, trying to make it correct and coherent from the grammatical point of view. Despite the acquired grammar patterns, he will try to add his own ones, which very often might result in an appropriate combination of such patterns from his native language.A young learner, on the contrary, will stick to the “steady” grammar clichés, which will make his use of the language units grammatically more “strict” and thus, more correct. He will shift his focus from modifying grammar patterns to applying a richer vocabulary bulk. Thus, assuming that the process of associations of a young learner is “stronger” or more profound and “colourful”, it is possible to claim that the process of the assimilating the foreign language itself will be more efficient and more natural. It will be “smoother” and faster not only due to the fact that a young learner turns to make more memorable associations, but because his reproductive skills are more developed that the ones of an adult learner. By reproductive skills, it is understood such actions and processes as voicing the assimilated units (the reproduction itself) and the physical capacity of correctly producing from the phonetic point of view the sounds of the target language. Thus, not only the vocabulary bulk of a young learner will be richer and more “colourful”, the pronunciation will be also more “musical and lighter”, thus, being more natural and correct. While the pronunciation of an adult learner will tend very often to be “harder and more forced”, resembling to a great extent to the pronunciation of his mother tongue. (as one of the numerous examples, the following “intricate” sounds “th”, “w” , “r” will be mispronounced by an adult learner, being very similar to the correspondent sounds from his native language).As a conclusion, it is though indispensable to point out that the above set forth assumptions are not to be regarded as ultimate ones, as there are such extra linguistic characteristics that influence greatly the learning process. The most outstanding of them are the following: personal motivation, personal language skills and learning potential, and the teacher’s professionalism of course. But in more general terms, a young learner is more prone to be a more efficient learner in the framework of learning English as a foreign language. 

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